At Our House

By Janet Clark

 

When my daughter was three years old we joined a nursery school cooperative.  Parents helped staff the facility on a rotating basis.  Angela was blessed with big brown eyes, a mop of shiny curls, her father’s imagination and her mother’s smart mouth.  She was a constant source of amusement for some of the more conservative parents.  Typical of three year olds, she was usually her most entertaining on the days I did not remain at school with her.

One noontime, when I arrived to collect her, the parents on duty were waiting for me.  They argued over who would get to tell me what had happened earlier that morning.   It seems that during snack time, while the children were all seated around little tables, munching slices of fresh fruit and drinking chocolate milk, Angela’s neighbor accidently knocked over his paper cup.  The contents spilled across the table soaking her napkin.   “Oh, shit,” she declared.

Shocked, one of the mother’s stepped over to the table and shook her finger in Angela’s direction scolding,   “No, no, Angela, we don’t talk like that here.”

Angela gave her an incredulous look and continued to mop up the spill with someone else’s napkin, then stopped.  Shrugging her shoulders at the other children at the table she smiled big and announced proudly, “Well, we do at my house!”

The Cherry Popsicle

By Edna Coulson Hall

 

I was ten years old when My Grandma Coulson died, my mother’s mother. I was told death meant Grandma was gone far, far away from this life, our life, all the way to Heaven where she would live with the angels, and we would never see her again until we went to Heaven ourselves one fine day. I said I understood.

At the funeral I stood by Mom while she talked to my aunts and uncles and other people who seemed to start every sentence with “She was.” It made a buzzing sound in my head. My Aunt Mildred said Grandma was in a place now where her heart was strong again and where she didn’t hurt anymore and never would again. She didn’t call the place Heaven, but I was sure that was what she meant because when someone said Grandma was with the angels now, Aunt Mildred smiled and
nodded.

Afterward, when we were home from the funeral, I looked at my picture book Bible and studied the images of angels there in their long flowing robes, their great white wings, their glowing halos. I had rarely seen Grandma except in a cotton house dress covered over with a long bib apron made from flour sacking. It was impossible to imagine Grandma among these dainty beings each strumming a small gold harp.
The only musical instrument I had ever known Grandma to play had been a pocket comb wrapped in waxed paper.

Before Grandma got sick, she would write Mom every week, ad her letters always came on Tuesday. The first Tuesday after Grandma’ funeral I was sitting on the front steps of our house sharing a homemade cherry popsicle with our dog. The mail man came and left mail at the end of the lane. Dust rolled up from the road.

I heard the kitchen screen door open and slap shut as Mom rushed out and started down to the road. As she neared the yard gat, she suddenly stopped and bent forward as if something had kicked her in the middle of her body. I watched and waited. Then she straightened and walked slowly on down to the mail box.

When I put the popsicle back in my mouth I could taste the dust from the road. I held it out to the dog.

“Here,” I said. “You can have it. My grandma’s dead.”

Treasured Memories

By Joan Wahl Countryman

 

Grammy’s Cookies

Take Four Grandchildren One By One

A High Stool

The Kitchen Aid Mixer

Brown and White sugar

Butter

Vanilla (enjoy the smell)

Add

Flour

Baking Soda and Salt

Chocolate Chips

Hersey’s English Toffee Bits

Mix gently with love, laughter, mess and disaster

Joyous memories held close as children grow too old to join me in the kitchen

Where treasured memories reside

Pick Up

By Joan Wahl Countryman

 

In February every year a hardy group of tennis players from Lamorinda join together for tennis in Palm Desert:

The youngest is around seventy five

The oldest is eighty eight

Levels of tennis from very good to not so good

All levels are accommodated with encouragement with good humor

This year my husband Jim and I decided to fly down instead of drive, we rented a car from Budget – a Toyota Yaris.  Upon our arrival the following ensued:

“Sorry Sir we don’t have the Yaris.  How about a VW Bug?”

“I do not want a Bug or a Ford whatever – I ordered the Yaris a month ago.”

“We have a Mustang which we will discount.”

After much wrangling we said yes to the Mustang. With keys, paperwork, suitcases and Jim’s cane we headed out to find parking spot E5.  That was the easy part.  Electric Green, two door with barely enough room to hold our suitcases in the trunk.  A not too happy Jim tossed his cane in the back seat and we were off.

Driving to the motel we began to notice people staring along the way – I gave a wink to a truck driver.

In the motel parking lot there was a team of young Lacrosse players getting ready to leave on a bus for a game – they stepped aside as we drove to the nearest handicapped parking spot.

The young men gave the car the once over while speaking among themselves.  As we alighted from the Mustang, they took a second look. Smiling, I said:

“Didn’t expect a couple of old fogies to be driving this – did ya!”

“It’s very cool,” one said.

“Great pickup,” Jim said.

During our stay, we made more friends because of the green machine.

Never lost it in the parking lot.

Every trip out was an opportunity to have a good laugh and talk to some young buck who wished he could be behind the wheel.

Jim, my old buck, enjoyed the green machine’s pick up – sure you are never too old to laugh and play!

Jim and the Green Machine

Jim and the Green Machine

Hook

By Edna Coulson Hall

 

June.  July.

Mowing, raking, bailing –
hay-making with Dad, with Granddad.

Wet?  Rain?  When?
And for how long?
How much?

Dry days and hot.  Hot.
Sweating, reddened deep,
shoulders blistered —
we bless the sun.

Atop the squat Ford tractor
pulling slow, pulling straight
through sweet scented alfalfa.

Hay hook in hand
stabbing bail and bail and bail –
lifting, twisting, stacking.
Neat.  Make it neat.
Winter might come early,
might stay late.
Pack the mow, snug’em tight
and neat.

Hay hook for hay work,
for carrying buckets heavy with grain,
for bolting a gate lock.

I scratch my name into
its work-slicked handle
with a rusty nail –
“Edna.”

Dotti

By Treva Perkins

A dear old friend of mine recently died.  In January.  Peacefully.  In her sleep. She was dear to me because she and I could talk forever about anything:  politics, women’s rights, food preparation, the arts, Los Angeles freeways, gardening, Mexico, news… any topic.  Dotti was an intellect.  Forward thinking.  Open minded.  Because of these attributes she never aged even though she lived to be 95.

In my mind, Dotti will live on forever.  Talking.  Laughing.  Insights that amaze with wit that amuses.

Here’s to you Dotti!  May your new journey be as rewarding as your life was a beautiful gift to all of us who knew you.

Oh, That Guy…

By Janet Clark

Who? Oh, that guy. Yes, I know him. No, no, he’s not Chinese, he’s from Vietnam. I don’t know when he immigrated, but you can see he’s not very old. Late thirties, maybe? You’re right. He’s not a big man, but what a hard worker. He’s been delivering newspapers in Poet’s Corner for about five years. Since he took over the route there’s never been a single day the papers weren’t delivered. Maybe a little late once or twice. If I’m awake I hear a comforting “thwack” as the paper hits the driveway around 4.30 a.m.

By the way – that guy happens to be one of the kindest people I know. For years I subscribed to the San Francisco Chronicle Thursdays through Sundays. Then, one day the Chron raised prices to the point I could no longer afford delivery. I sent a note to that guy letting him know my reason for quitting the paper and thanking him for his reliable service. The morning I was to receive no Chronicle there was a newspaper on my driveway. Attached to it was a crudely penciled note.

“Good morning, thank you for the Christmas card you sent me. I always have extra Contra Costa Times papers. I’ll throw one every day and if you need me to stop, call this number. Dien Lam.”

For a year and a half he has faithfully left a Times on my driveway. From time to time I put a ten dollar bill in an envelope and mailed it to him.

Recently the San Francisco Chronicle ran a special “We miss you. Ninety dollars for the entire year!”

I signed up.

Now I get two papers every morning – carefully rubber-banded together so I only have to stoop over once. You know that’s getting harder to do early in the morning these days? Stooping.

Oh yeah, that guy is just the greatest!

Doug, the Guy

By Treva Perkins

Oh that guy!  There was no way that I was going to give him the satisfaction of even looking at him!  And those girls hanging all over him as they all walked the hallways ooogaling and cooing.  There were at least four or five of them at all times sauntering down the hall with him arm in arm.  It was disgusting.  Didn’t they know how ridiculous they looked?  And the guy had a big smile that said it all; he loved it! I couldn’t stand it.  All of this frenzy took place toward the end my ninth grade year at George Jacobs Junior High, in Eureka, CA.  This tall, slender Elvis look alike with his dark hair and creamy white skin had shown up at our school and was making quite a stir with the girls.  He and I didn’t have any classes together so the only time I saw him was passing in the hallways always accompanied by a bevy of silly girls.  No, I was not going to be part of the harem.

Probably the reason that I caught his attention was because I ignored him, thoroughly. Certainly I didn’t mean to bring this interest to myself because not only was I terribly shy, but I didn’t want to be pulled in to being part of the troupe.  It wasn’t too many days before one of the girls approached me and said that Doug wanted to call me.  After all of these years, details are few and far between but I did talk to Doug for at least an hour on the phone after dinner for several nights.  He didn’t live anywhere near me so popping over for a visit was not to be.   Doug asked me to the prom.  Considering all of the girls who had been dying to date him, I couldn’t believe that he picked me.  On the evening of the prom his aunt, who he was living with at the time, drove us to the school for the gala event.   This was my first real date and on the way home in the back seat with his aunt driving up front, I had my first real kiss.

With the end of the school year, Doug seemed to disappear as fast as he had swooped into town.  I can only imagine that my parents might have sighed a breath of relief when this whirlwind liaison ended.   

On the Road to Vermont

By Nahide Craig

Mid August 1964: After a very long and bumpy flight from Istanbul here I am in the USA. I landed in New York and yet with another flight I am in Hartford Conn. My friend met me at the airport and we started to drive to Vermont to his parent’s summer home. The 4 lane highway had a heavy traffic even in this late night and incoming lights on the curvy highway looked like a four strand diamond necklace. Traffic was orderly and the roads were impressive. After an hour or so we were in the narrower country roads, so dark and also beautiful.

Even the darkness of the midnight one can discern on this two lane road the land forms, orderly fences signs for entering and exiting different counties and states. After three hours of drive, we were almost in middle of the nowhere, he suddenly stopped at the road side by an unknown structure to me. I asked him why are we stopping and what this thing is. He said “a Coca Cola machine! Aren’t we thirsty”? I started feeling like I was really in America.

Now, after almost a half a century later, I am driving with my husband from Hartford to Vermont to visit my friend who picked me up in Hartford. What I see now in this four lane highway is a traffic jam; what happened to the four strand diamond necklace? The road to Vermont is still bucolic, beautiful, and long. The coke machines on the road now have many more beverages also beef jerky and even ice – cream bars. I am sure I am in America!!

If Only

By Edna Coulson Hall

Even now, as a far removed elder of my rural Ohio home-based family, I enjoy a reputation that tinges on myth. I was the one who left, the one who sallied forth in the midst of a fierce blizzard to see what it was that lay south of the Ohio River and west of Cincinnati.

My journey began in January 1964: South to New Orleans where the original plan for a three-day stopover stretched to three weeks. Finally heavy rains and a flattened wallet convinced me to turn westward.

Texas was a half week crossing. Next came New Mexico. I hardly blinked. In Arizona I saw my first road runner, my first desert palm. I stopped at a roadside trading post just east of the California border.

Inside I was drawn to a table piled high with rugs I thought of as Navajo despite being told I was in Yuma Indian Territory, I checked my not-so-ready cash. I could sleep in a motel with abundant delayed maintenance and call a sleeve of soda crackers and jar of off brand peanut butter dinner or I could buy a rug. The store owner hovered.

“Pretty one you got there. All made local. No two alike. You won’t be sorry. Good price. Let me lay it out for you.”

“No,” I said. “I don’t have the money. Really. I’m pretty much broke.”

“Hell, Little Sister, you need a job? I can help you with that.”

Little Sister? Was that Arizonian for Miss? And a job? What was the man talking about? I looked around. I was the only customer in sight. Clearly the man, Big Brother(?) didn’t need help. I stepped backward toward the door. “Just a sec,” he said and disappeared behind a burlap hung doorway.

In my attempt to escape I knocked against a row of little papoose style dolls and was trying to set them straight again when the man reappeared waving a torn scrap of yellow tablet paper. “Lookee here,” he crowed. “I gotcha a job interview with Colonel Oakley himself at the First National downtown.”

I held a papoose in each hand and stared at him. Appointment? Oakley himself? Where? “Ah, where?” I said.

“Straight on down the road to Main. You can’t miss it.”

He took the dolls from me and set them on the counter and clapped his hands together. “Best get a quick move on,” he said. “I told Col. Bob you’d be there in ten minutes.”

I hardly remember the rest, but the following Monday I was officially made Secretary to Col. Robert Oakley, grandson to the famous Annie-Sure-Shot Oakley, Trust Officer of the First National Bank of Arizona, Yuma Branch. I worked there until September when I had saved enough to resume my travels. I eventually settled in San Francisco.

People still ask how I had the nerve to make that long, long trip all alone. My question went to my mother. “How could you let me go that awful blizzardy day? Didn’t you think about hiring a couple of people to kidnap me and haul me off to some obscure location where wayward teens were reprogrammed via Tough Love.”

Mom said, “Because I thought if I asked you to stay, you would say no to me and leave anyway, and that would break my heart.”